Previously, the general belief was that pain always means injury or harm. This is true for acute pain but not for persistent pain. We experience acute pain if we fall, touch a hot stove, or come across other threats to our survival. Our brain perceives pain in these cases to alert us that we have an injury or are at risk of one and need to be careful. Our brain is protecting us.
Persistent pain is different. It continues when there is no longer a risk or injury. We now understand that it is as if this pain signal has been left on full volume or turned too high.
Providence Health & Services Oregon and SW Washington, a member of the Tri-County Opioid Safety Coalition, has developed tools about rethinking pain for patients & families and health care providers. We are thankful to be able to use their content for this site.
Brain Signals Can Change Your Pain
Scientists now know that our thoughts and actions affect how well we recover from pain. How would you answer these questions?
- Are you doing the things you enjoy?
- Are you up and moving around?
- Are you eating a health diet?
- Are you getting the right amount of sleep?
- Do you know how to manage stress?
Retraining Your Brain and Your Body's Pain Response
Here are some key strategies for retraining your brain and body's pain response. Change can be hard, but you can slowly turn down the volume on pain.
- Get moving again. Start slowly and keep it up
- Eat healthfully.
- Learn relaxation techniques and practice them daily. Learn how to reduce stress.
- Connect with others, and be around other people.
- Engage in hobbies you enjoy.
- Get enough sleep, but not too much.
Pain Education Resources
There are great patient and clinician resources on rethinking pain.
- Providence Health & Services Oregon and SW Washington Health Care Providers Persistent Pain Toolkit
- Providence Health & Services Oregon and SW Washington Patient and Families Persistent Pain Toolkit
- Oregon Pain Management Commission's Clinician Training Module
- Oregon Pain Guidance Pain Treatment Guidelines